JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Mint has proposed a new $1 coin with designs honoring a landmark anti-discrimination law that passed in territorial Alaska in 1945, years before the U.S. Civil Rights Act.
The Alaska Native woman influential in the law’s passage, Elizabeth Peratrovich, is featured on most of the design options. The new coin, scheduled for release in 2020, is part of a mint program honoring Native Americans and their contributions.
Peratrovich’s testimony and advocacy have been credited as pivotal in efforts to pass the anti-discrimination law. This was at a time when, according to the Alaska Federation of Natives, many Alaska Natives faced poverty and unemployment because of segregation.
Gov. Bill Walker has said it was the first piece of anti-discrimination legislation passed by any state or territory since the Civil War. The U.S. Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.
Here is a look at Peratrovich and the U.S. Mint program.
WHO WAS ELIZABETH PERATROVICH?
Peratrovich was a Tlingit, born on July 4, 1911, in a southeast Alaska fishing community. She died in 1958, shortly before Alaska officially became a state.
She and her husband, Roy Peratrovich, were involved in the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood, organizations that had been founded to fight for civil rights for Alaska Natives.
The couple argued for passage of anti-discrimination legislation, an effort that failed in 1943.
The issue came up again for debate in 1945. Elizabeth Peratrovich’s testimony before territorial lawmakers and her advocacy for the issue have been hailed as influential in winning the law’s passage.
HOW IS SHE REMEMBERED?
Feb. 16 of each year is designated as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day in Alaska. It is not an official state holiday but a day for remembrance of her contributions.
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, who is Alaska Native, said Peratrovich’s “legacy of courage helped me and countless others grow as leaders of our people and have an equal voice in our state and our country.”
Mallott made those comments in 2015, in a letter urging the U.S. Treasury secretary to put Peratrovich on the $10 bill. Walker and tribal organizations in the state also supported Peratrovich’s nomination.
The Treasury Department ultimately decided that Alexander Hamilton would remain on the $10 bill, which, as part of a planned redesign, also will honor the suffrage movement.
One historian has argued that while Peratrovich deserves to be honored, the drama surrounding her testimony may have been overblown.
WHAT WILL THE NEW COINS LOOK LIKE?
That’s still unclear. Peratrovich’s likeness or name appears on most of the design options. But final approval on a design is pending.
One side of the coin will feature whatever design is settled on. The other will feature Sacagawea, who is noted for her contributions to the Lewis and Clark expedition. Sacagawea’s likeness has been featured on the $1 coin since 2000.
Issuance of the new coin, in 2020, would coincide with the 75th anniversary of the passage of the anti-discrimination law.
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